Rugby: Leonard gives Edinburgh late win

Tim Visser scores Edinburgh's only try.''Image by: Malcolm McCurrach
Tim Visser scores Edinburgh's only try.''Image by: Malcolm McCurrach
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A new coaching regime, fresh faces in both forwards and backs and even a re-seeded pitch which occasionally cut up in lumps.

But some things never change where Edinburgh Rugby and Murrayfield are concerned; once again Tim Visser went in for a try and how vital it might prove after a 16-13 win against Newport Gwent Dragons which came down to an injury-time penalty from Harry Leonard in front of the posts after a monster scrum surge.

In a week dominated by a dispute over the future of the European Cup with the smart money on Scotland having their automatic qualification halved and the lower team having to finish top six to gain entry, there was a welcome urgency about Edinburgh as well as a determination to snatch what was only their fourth win in nine meetings with the Dragons at the death.

New Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons told how his heart was in his mouth before that first victory was confirmed.

It took the touch judges what seemed like an eternity to raise their flags after Leonard’s late penalty.

“They did give me a fright, no question,” said Solomons, adding: “It took a bit longer to decide and it was a bit concerning.”

All ended well and Solomons was able to reflect on as job well done particularly in terms of resolve and scrummaging. “We made far too many errors in the second half particularly. The important thing was we squeezed out a win in a tight game. We just made too many mistakes but hung in and that is a positive thing. We should have taken a kick instead of a scrum penalty at the end of the first half but, as somebody said, Harry Leonard’s touch-line conversion (of Tim Visser’s try) partly made up for that decision.

“Harry was very sound and his winning kick was a bit like a three-foot putt in golf – it still had to go in.”

If the overall impression of coach Solomons’ Edinburgh was rustiness as they huffed and puffed for large parts of a turgid first half, they had some decent individual displays to match their strength of character.

Prime amongst those was scrum half Sean Kennedy who looked every inch a future full internationalist while props Ally Dickinson and Willem Nel were immense in the scrum as were Izak van der Westhuizen and David Denton.

Leonard’s penalty also proved he could hold his nerve and the win gives Edinburgh vital momentum.

The grandstand finish was in contrast to the scrappy beginnings and when Edinburgh were not kicking away early possession – sometimes in the opposition half – they were conceding some needless penalties including at scrum and line-out. Going forward was non-existent and it was noticeable that Edinburgh’s speculative kicks were being confidently fielded by Netani Talei who needed no second invitation to counter.

It was no surprise, then, when Edinburgh fell behind to a penalty by Jason Tovey and although Harry Leonard quickly equalised it was obvious early on that a change of approach would be required from the home side.

Misses from each kicker added to the stalemate but amidst a couple of warnings for the captains Leonard put Edinburgh ahead in the 21st minute.

That was the cue for Dragons to be first to put together some phases of play among the forwards which ended with Tovey firing a drop goal effort wide.

With play mostly around midfield, though, there was plenty of time to note chunks of turf coming off the pitch which looked exceedingly brittle.

Regardless, Edinburgh, with Ally Dickinson prominent, were destroying the Dragons scrum.

Little had been seen of the home wingers but when Nikki Walker regained possession from – surprise, surprise – a kick, that led to Nick De Luca and Dave Denton testing the home defence. A penalty cost ground but line-out piracy saw Edinburgh in search of a boost before half time.

What they got initially was a yellow card for Lewis Evans for coming in at the side of a ruck and from the penalty Edinburgh took the scrum option with disastrous consequences as the Dragons managed to escape following a home infringement.

Sean Cox came on for Dimitri Basilaia at the interval as Edinburgh attempted to exploit their rivals’ yellow card. They would have done, too, had De Luca not held on too long with a man outside.

There was certainly greater tempo and reward came in 47 minutes when Greig Tonks entered the line, Denton pierced the defence and an exquisite off-load sent Visser in from close range for his 49th league try.

Leonard’s touchline conversion sailed over for 13-3.

Alas, just when it seemed the hosts might kick on Dragons were allowed to escape upfield and, irony of ironies, Richie Rees, who had failed to notch a try when an Edinburgh player last season, nipped over from a short range line-out.

Tovey’s conversion cut the gap to three points as Edinburgh lost Sean Cox to be replaced by Hamish Watson.

Even more significantly Edinburgh had lost their way and it was surprising to see Kennedy withdrawn to be replaced by Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.

Namibian Wicus Blaauw also came on, for a debut, but with six minutes remaining a penalty by sub Kris Burton levelled the scores.

Credit Edinburgh with raising their work-rate and seemed they might snatch victory with Toby Faletau looking offside.

However, referee Phillips surprisingly waved play on albeit he was spot on when Dragons went offside at a retreating scrum to give Leonard his glory moment.

Scorers: Edinburgh: Try: Visser. Conversion: Leonard. Penalties: Leonard (3). Dragons: Try: Rees. Conversion: Tovey. Penalties: Tovey, Burton.

Edinburgh: Tonks, Walker, Fife, De Luca, Visser, Leonard (Hidalgo-Clyne, 61), Kennedy, Dickinson (Blaauw, 65), Ford, captain, Nel, Gilchrist, van der Westhuizen, Basilaia (Cox, 40, Watson, 54), Denton, Grant. Subs not used: Lutui, Cox, Watson, Tait, Cuthbert.

Dragons: D Evans, Pewtner, Leach, Dixon, Amos, Tovey, (Burton 61)Rees (J Evans, 64), O Evans (Price, 45), Thomas, captain, Way (Chaparro, 45), Jones, Screech, L Evans, Talei, Cudd (Faletau, 10). Subs not used: Gustafson, Sidoli, Wardle.

Referee: D Phillips (Ireland).

Attendance: 3692